The Untapped Power of Music: Its Role in the Curriculum and Its Effect on Academic Achievement

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  • http://bul.sagepub.com/NASSP Bulletin

    http://bul.sagepub.com/content/82/597/34The online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/019263659808259707

    1998 82: 34NASSP BulletinJoyce M. Kelstrom

    Effect on Academic AchievementThe Untapped Power of Music: Its Role in the Curriculum and Its

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    A R T S E D U C A T I O N

    The Untapped Power of Music:Its Role in the Curriculum andIts Effect on Academic AchievementBy Joyce M. Kelstrom

    Joyce M. Kelstrom is a music educator in Elmhurst, Ill.

    The importance of music in our schools is often overlooked, and its truepower is unrealized. Music deserves a place with the core subjects of math,science, history, and language arts. If it is given the opportunity, music canmake a difference in the academic achievement of our students.

    s the twenty-first century approaches, educators and administrators

    ~~~ face budget cuts and financial stress, demands for higher test scoresand proof of student achievement, scheduling conflicts, overcrowd-ing of facilities, and higher technological demands. There is also increased

    pressure on students to achieve higher grades and scores on college admis-sion tests, so students are frequently steered toward the subjects that are test-ed on these exams.

    Music and fine arts are greatly affected by all these demands. Highschool music programs are fighting a battle to maintain enrollment becauseof ever-increasing college academic admission requirements, which leavemany interested students with no room in their schedule for music.

    The future role of music and fine arts in the U.S. school depends on

    administrators, who will only make music a part of the curriculum if theyare aware of the financial, academic, and aesthetic merits of having a music

    program (Robitaille and ONeal, 1981; Gillespie, 1992; Miller and Coen,1994; Anderson, 1995). The decision to support music cannot be made with-out knowing musics effect on academic achievement and its contributionto a students education.

    Music education has been advanced through history-by Plato andSocrates in ancient times; by Martin Luther in the Reformation; by HoraceMann and Lowell Mason in early America; and by John Dewey in the

    Progressive Age. Historically, music education has flourished in religious

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    settings-in Puritan schools and churches in the Northern colonies, in

    parochial schools in the Middle Atlantic colonies, and in Lutheran schoolsand churches in the Reformation.

    Music education has taken many forms. Singing schools, establishedin colonial days, concentrated on performance. When music was intro-duced into the public school curriculum in 1838, the emphasis switched tomusic theory and notation. In the Progressive Era the concentration

    changed to self-expression and musical activity, only to be replaced by&dquo;aesthetics&dquo; education in the post-Sputnik age.

    Music in Todays SchoolsOther countries, with Hungary, Japan, and the Netherlands leading the way,have already discovered the positive contribution music can make to stu-dents aptitude and learning success. These countries have made music a

    major part of their curriculum. The United States lags far behind.

    Today, music occupies a part-time place in U.S. schools. It is gener-ally taught once or twice a week at the elementarylevel, before or after school at the middle level, andas an elective in the high school.

    To date, music has played a relatively minorrole in the school curriculum in the United States. If

    student participation in music is a positive factor in

    achieving high grades and test scores, however, andif music students perform better academically thannon-music students, that should revolutionize thecurrent concept and organization of basic schoolcurriculum.

    While educators can learn much from the

    past, current research has also uncovered findingsabout the value of music study and its relationship

    If music is to assume a

    place in the regular

    school curriculum, cur-

    rent research must be

    used to show its effect

    on academic achievement

    and its contribution to

    students education.

    to academic achievement (Oddleifson, 1989; Mickela, 1990; MusicEducators National Conference, 1991; Morrison, 1994). Both the historical

    viewpoint and current findings can be used to determine the role musicshould hold in the school curriculum today.

    If music is to assume a place in the regular school curriculum, cur-rent research must be used to show its effect on academic achievement and

    its contribution to students education. Two measures that are often used as

    indicators of academic achievement are grades and standardized test scores.Research has been done at all levels of education, exploring the relation-ship of music instruction to academic achievement.

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    Middle Level

    Researchers have found that music instruction actually enhances stu-dent achievement in areas outside music. In a study by Robitaille andONeal (1981), 5,154 fifth graders took the Comprehensive Test of BasicSkills (CTBS) in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1979. In 1980, another 5,299 fifth

    graders were tested. Of these groups, nearly one-fourth of all participantswere enrolled in the instrumental music program during both years. In allareas, music students scored higher on the CTBS than the total group. Theresearch showed that the longer pupils were in the music program, the

    higher their achievement was in comparison to the non-music students. Thisstudy was replicated in 1986 and similar results were found.

    In 1992, a group of 270 fifth graders were selected from a Kansasschool district to determine the effect of instrumental music instruction on

    academic achievement. The Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS)subtests of reading and math were used. The study indicated that time outof regular classes for instrumental music instruction does not negativelyaffect academic achievement (Dryden, 1992, p. 65). _

    SAT Research

    In a series of studies conducted by the College Board from 1990 to1996, it was found that music/art students consistently scored significantlyhigher on both the math and verbal sections of the SAT. The data were gath-ered by the Student Descriptive Questionnaire, a component of the SAT that

    provides information about students academic preparation. Studentsresponse rate to the questionnaire was high-95 percent-and studies doc-ument the accuracy of self-reported student information (College Board,1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995; Krum, 1994).

    Grades and Academic HonorsIn 1990 the National Center for Educational Statistics conducted a survey of

    18,000 high school sophomores to gather information on the social and aca-demic life of U.S. teenagers. While 22.8 percent of these students partici-pated in school music programs, the percentage of music students wasmuch greater than 22 percent of the entire group in receiving academichonors, making the honor roll, or being elected to class office. The gradepoint average (GPA) of music students was also higher.

    These results confirm the findings of the SAT studies.

    Arts-Based Schools in the United StatesSome areas of the United States have experimented with implementing arts-based schools. These schools, though relatively few in number, have had a

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    track record of considerable academic success (Oddleifson, 1989; Mickela,1990; Newbill, 1992). Some arts-based schools are magnet schools,designed to attract the best, brightest, and most talented music students.Others are schools open to the public with no prior music training or abil-

    ity required of entering students.Students enrolled in the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts

    attend the center for a half day of arts training, then spend the remainderof the day at their home schools. Arts training includes drama, theater, visu-al arts, dance, and music. As students continue at the Center, their aca-demic studies improve and their grades rise (Oddleifson, 1989, p. 41).

    At the other extreme is St. Augustines School in the Bronx, which wasabout to close in 1985 because of low enrollment